Man sent to state custody for failing to register as a violent offender

Judge allows prosecutors to withdraw from plea deal after man brings meth syringe to previous court hearing
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, October 3, 2019
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Joshua H. Norton

A convicted violent offender was sentenced to state custody last week for failing to register as a convicted felon and violating the terms of his probation by absconding and getting caught with methamphetamine in court at a previous hearing.

Joshua H. Norton, 39, had hoped to receive a suspended sentence for failing to register as a violent offender and at one point, prosecutors had entered into a plea agreement that would have resulted in that.

Those plans were derailed when Norton showed up for an earlier hearing high on methamphetamine and with a meth syringe under his hat. Additionally, despite being charged with — and pleading guilty to — failing to register with the state’s Sexual Violent Offender Registry, Norton never bothered to actually register. (He was convicted of strangulation in Yellowstone County in 2017).

Twenty-second District Court Judge Matt Wald was not pleased.

“I’ll just flat out tell you, I’m not going to give you a suspended sentence in this case,” Wald said at the beginning of last week’s hearing.

Norton’s explanation for failing to register and absconding was that his family and support system is in New Jersey and here in Montana, he is basically homeless.

Wald rejected all of Norton’s excuses, telling him that he could have petitioned the court for permission to return to New Jersey while the case was pending. Wald also addressed the issue of the continued failure to register, saying it is a crime “and it’s not a choice.”

Wald also addressed the day that Norton walked into court high with drugs in his possession, saying that was something he had never seen before.

Wald then granted the sentence requested by Stillwater County Nancy Rohde Attorney, but added that it was “less” than what he had been considering.

And with that, Norton was sentenced to the Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) for five years, with two years suspended.

Wald said the sentence reflected Norton’s “complete disregard” for the court, while providing for community safety and rehabilitation.


DOC Probation/Parole Officer Brad Pinnick contacted the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) in September 2018 to confirm that Norton (whom Pinnick was supervising) was required to register on the state’s Sexual Violent Offender Registry (SVOR), according to court documents.

DCI reviewed documents and determined that under the conditions of a Nov. 21, 2017, deferred sentence for felony strangulation of a partner/family member in Yellowstone County, Norton was required to be on the SVOR. DCI also determined through records that Norton was a Columbus resident.

DCI Agent Toby Baukeman contacted the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office and determined that Norton had never reported to that agency to register, as is required under state law.

Agent Baukeman also found that six days after receiving the deferred sentence in Yellowstone County, Norton was arrested by Billings police for causing a disturbance, according to court documents.

DOC placed a 72-hour hold on Norton as the arrest violated his probation conditions regarding “victim contact and alcohol use,” according to court documents.

In December 2017, Norton violated his probation again when he was arrested in Billings with fictitious license plates on his vehicle, as well as being with the victim of his original crime, according to court documents. At that time, Norton had been classified as an absconder and had to be arrested on a warrant.